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Breast. 2005 Dec;14(6):452-7. Epub 2005 Sep 28.

The biology of steroid hormones and endocrine treatment of breast cancer.

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Department of Biochemistry, Royal Marsden Hospital, London SW3 6JJ, UK.


Recognition of the role of oestrogens in the stimulation of breast tumour growth has led to the development of several therapies based on endocrine intervention. Endocrine agents are currently used as a treatment for steroid receptor-positive breast cancer and more recently as a preventative measure in high-risk populations. Accurate quantification of resulting steroid hormonal profiles is essential to the understanding of the biological action and efficacy of these agents. In premenopausal women GnRH agonists suppress ovarian oestrogen synthesis and reduce oestradiol to close to postmenopausal levels. GnRH agonists used in combination with an aromatase inhibitor suppress levels even further. In contrast, tamoxifen can lead to markedly enhanced levels. In postmenopausal women aromatase inhibitors can achieve an almost complete inhibition of the aromatase enzyme.

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